CARLTON has defeated a dogged Collingwood by just eight points in a fiercely contested opening match of the NAB AFLW season.
In a hard-fought match, both sides had long periods of dominance but struggled to make an impact on the scoreboard, with Carlton winning 3.4 (22) to 2.2 (14).
Carlton actually failed to kick a goal after half-time but had done enough early (through Kate Shierlaw, Tayla Harris and Alison Downie) to hang on.
Collingwood draftee Chloe Molloy, usually a forward, was a steadying presence in defence, while Harris was highly impressive in her first game for the Blues, taking several stunning contested marks and kicking a goal.
It was a case of history repeating when Collingwood key forward Jasmine Garner kicked the opening goal of the match, as she did in last year's season opener.
The Magpies then struggled to get through a strong Blues zone defence, led by Davey (16 disposals and four marks) and Danielle Hardiman (12 and two).
In promising signs for Carlton, usual stars and leaders Darcy Vescio and Lauren Arnell did not have an impact on the match, yet they still came away with the four points.
Moana Hope's much vaunted move into the midfield lasted just a quarter, after which she was moved forward to try and provide a focal point.
It worked somewhat, but she took just one mark and didn't hit the scoreboard.
Fellow forward Sarah D'Arcy will come under the scrutiny of new Match Review Officer Michael Christian for lashing out at Carlton midfielder Sarah Hosking in an attempt to get the Blue to move away after a tackle.
Captain, my captain
Both captains were eager to set the tone early, with Brianna Davey particularly dominant in the first half of the match. Davey plays the role of the general so well in defence, but it was her ability to run and create that was damaging early. In a similar vein, Steph Chiocci was a driving force in the second term in particular, only her inability to convert in front of goal putting a dampener on her game.
Tayla shakes it off
There was a lot of pressure on Tayla Harris after her high-profile move from Brisbane Lions to Carlton during the trade period. But it clearly didn't affect her, with one of her best AFLW performances to date. She kicked just the one goal, but took several of her trademark strong contested marks (five in total) and put defensive pressure on when she didn't have the ball.
Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater
With a short, seven-week season, percentage will be vital for one of those precious Grand Final berths. A first-round loss is less than ideal for Collingwood, but going down by eight points is not season-ending. Of more concern will be their inability to hit the scoreboard despite such a potent forward line. Sarah D'Arcy marked well but was off her best form, while Moana Hope, who played the last three terms forward, was well beaten by Danielle Hardiman.
Work in progress
The "last-touch" rule made its official debut and had an interesting impact on the game. Play was noticeably directed through the middle of the ground (instead of the wings), and was even switched across the face of goal, which was prone to turnovers. Players have, on the whole, quickly adjusted, having trained with the rule in place for the vast majority of their pre-season.
"It was a really contested game and I thought at different times, teams had momentum… They dug in and really found a way, which was encouraging`" – Carlton coach Damien Keeping
"We were really close. Just a couple of small little areas we need to work on, on the track. Then we head to Perth, take on Fremantle and [if we] fix those couple of small things, we'll be right in the game." – Collingwood coach Wayne Siekman
Carlton travels up to Drummoyne Oval in Sydney to take on Greater Western Sydney on Friday night, while Collingwood plays Fremantle in the first game at Perth Stadium on Saturday night.
CARLTON 2.1 3.1 3.4 3.4 (22)
COLLINGWOOD 1.0 2.1 2.1 2.2 (14)
Carlton: Shierlaw, Harris, Downie
Collingwood: Garner, Barden
Carlton: Harris, Davey, Hardiman, J.Hosking, S.Hoskin
Collingwood: Molloy, Chiocci, Lambert, McIntosh, Garner
Collingwood: Duffin (strained adductor, replaced in selected side by Schleicher)
Reports: Sarah D'Arcy (Collingwood) reported for kicking Sarah Hosking (Carlton) in the third quarter
Crowd: 19,852 at Ikon Park